Don’t Let Science Get in the Way of Your Martial Arts Fantasy
Damian Ross – The Self Defense Company
Do martial arts like Aikido, Systema, Akijujutsu and even Reality Based Self defense Systems Like Krav Maga and TFT actually work in the real world?
The answer may SHOCK you. In fact there’s a simple scientific, physiological FACT that renders ALL martial arts and self defense systems irrelevant and useless when you’re attacked for real.
It doesn’t matter how believable, how nice, or how tough your instructor. I get it and I don’t think they would lie to you intentionally, but I’m going to tell you something that they obviously don’t know or care to share with you.
Something happens to your body when you’re in a REAL fight and you have no control over it…
There is no amount of breathing and meditation that will change it – it’s hardwired into your system and there’s no way around it. It’s called the SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) and it’s what takes control of your body when you’re in a fight or flight situation.
You can practice and practice until your beyond exhaustion – but just because your system works in training, doesn’t mean it will work in the street. The vast majority of skills and defenses taught by literally every self defense system can not work in the street because of SNS activation, and there’s NOTHING you can do to change that fact.
The activation of the SNS is unavoidable and uncontrollable. It’s a reflex triggered by the mere perception of a real threat. Once initiated, the SNS will dominate all voluntary and involuntary body functions until the perceived threat has been eliminated or escaped. Once you feel you’re safe, the PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) activates to reestablish homeostasis.
The PNS is what you use the majority of the time in a relaxed and non-threatened state.The problem is that you train in the PNS mindset when you have complete control over your faculties. You will get tired, you will get stressed, but it’s nothing like SNS activation.This is why most self defense systems are incorrect because they project the same functionality when you’re under attack.
The solution is you need to train in skills and tactics that will be there under SNS activation.
When the SNS is activated there is an immediate discharge of stress hormones. This “mass discharge” is designed to prepare your body for fight or flight. This is characterized by increasing blood pressure, heart rate and blood flow to large muscle mass (resulting in increased strength and enhanced complex and gross motor skills). This causes vasoconstriction of minor blood vessels at the end of your appendages (which serves to reduce bleeding from wounds) – this also eliminates the possibilities of finite motor skills. You will also experience pupil dilation, shut down of the digestive processes and muscle tremors.
Your SNS is there to get you hyper-focused and ready for battle.
Under SNS activation you will only be able to concentrate on what’s immediately in front of you. And if you’re not trained the right way, your body will literally shut down because the effects of SNS activation can be debilitating. This has been recognized for centuries. Phenomenon such as tunnel vision (peripheral vision is shut off), auditory exclusion (hearing is shut off), the loss of complex motor control, irrational behavior, and the inability to think clearly have all been observed as byproducts of SNS activation. Stories of soldiers “losing their minds” in battle is not uncommon and prolonged SNS activation will lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What exactly happens to your Body during SNS Activation
Below is a description of what will happen to you in the face of real danger when your SNS is activated.
Heart rate is used because it is a variable that can be easily measured. Heart rate from physical exertion is a lot different than the involuntary heart rate increase you experience caused by hormones when your SNS is activated.
Below is are 3 classifications of movement that are critical to understanding the effects of SNS activation on your ability to perform. The 3 classifications are Finite Motor Skills, Complex Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills.
Finite Motor Skill
These are movements that employ articulation of the fingers, wrists and small subtle movements that involve a great deal of timing, skill and “feel”. This includes wrist locks, finger locks, trapping, complex joint manipulation, different hand and fist configurations.
Complex Motor Skills
Large joint movements of the hip, shoulder, elbow and knee, firing a weapon, stabbing and swinging a bat are also complex motor skills. On the high end would even be strangling or more specifically squeezing and constricting as well as gouging and biting. There is a reason that punch turns into a “hay maker” in the street.
Gross Motor Skill
Running to your enemy (charging) or running away (escaping).
A note on terminology:
*I refer to gross motor skills a lot and there’s a reason for it – the complex motor skill label is misleading. Complex suggests complicated. In reality , complex motor skills range from the extremely simple (Edge of Hand Strike or Heel of Hand Strike) to the less simple (Hand Yoke or Combat Strangle). During the initial surge of SNS Activation, which I’ll explain next, you will only be able to do the simple movements, but as you come down and the threat lessons, more complex skills become available.
60 to 80 BPM (beats per minute) – Normal resting heart rate.
115 BPM -You get ready for battle
- This happens the second you realize you’re in real danger
- Finite Motor Skills Deteriorate
- Vasoconstriction occurs driving blood from your extremities to control bleeding from wounds.
- Blood goes into your vital organs and large muscle groups to prepare you for battle.
Say good bye to small circle anything, wrist and finger locks, fancy hand gestures, complicated holds and moves.
115 to 155 BPM – The “Combat Zone”
- The optimal heart rate for battle.
- Maximization of complex motor skills like the SDTS Edge of hand, chin jab, hand yoke and dozens of other base techniques. You can still use a firearm, club or edged weapon with simple and powerful maneuvers.
- Visual reaction time is maximized
- Cognitive reaction time is maximize
In this range your hyper-focused and with the right training, you will operate with maximum effectiveness.
155 BPM -The beginning of the end
- Complex Motor skills begin to break down
- Your skill set and your bodily functions start a fast spiral out of control
175 BPM and above – You’re Cooked
Your brain and body literally shutdown.
- Loss of cognitive processing (rational thinking)
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Loss of depth perception
- Loss of near vision
- Auditory exclusion
- Irrational fighting or fleeing
- Submissive behavior
- Voiding of bladder and bowels (yep – you literally shit yourself)
- Gross motor skills (running, charging) at highest performance level
In this stage you are all but useless. You can wither run towards the enemy or away from him. Eventually you will black out or suffer cardiac arrest. The terms “scared to death” and “scared shitless” have real meaning.
Once activated, the SNS causes immediate physiological changes, of which the most noticeable and easily monitored is increased heart rate. SNS activation will drive the heart rate from an average of 70 beats per minute (BPM) to more than 200 BPM in less than a second. As combat stress increases, heart rate and respiration will increase until catastrophic failure or until the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered (you will black out).
Humans have three primary survival systems: vision, cognitive processing, and motor skill performance. Under stress, all three break down.
The Warrior Inside You
The positive by product of SNS activation is that it increases strength and increases your pain threshold. You will be able to be shot and stabbed without even feeling it. The majority of the time people die from gunshot and knife wounds due to blood loss. It’s not the movies, you don’t fall down when you get shot or stabbed unless the impact is enough to knock you down.
Keep in mind the same holds true for the enemy you’re fighting. do you think a “pressure point” would have even fazed the woman on the left? Your best bet is to attack major nerve centers and respiratory functions.
Can you control SNS activation to make sure you’re in the combat zone?
Yes you can. Low-level SNS activation may result from the anticipation of an attack. This is especially common with police officers or soldiers minutes before they make a tactical assault into a potential deadly force environment. Under these conditions combatants will generally experience increase in heart rate and respiration, muscle tremors, and a sense of anxiety.
In contrast, high-level SNS activation occurs when you’re confronted with an unanticipated deadly force threat and the time to respond is minimal.This is literally EVERY self defense situation you prepare for and it’s important that you understand this fact, because this is why All methods of Self Defense FAIL.
In every self defense system on the planet they train you to react to the unanticipated attack. You are expected to respond instantly and precisely, just like in the movies.
Remember, every unanticipated attack is a high-level SNS activation situation. High SNS activation will cause catastrophic failure of the visual, cognitive, and motor control systems.
Every system you learn begins with the attack. The guy grabs your throat, he bear hugs you out of nowhere, he sticks a gun in your face and you’re expected to recall something finite and complicated when you get that awesome rush of adrenaline and hormones from SNS activation.
What about before the attack?
99% of the time you will be stalked before someone decides you have what they want and they can get it from you. Predators will even make contact with you to size you up. Criminals and bullies don’t want to have a hard time so they will choose marks they feel are worth it and or stack the odds in their favor.
Before the attack, before that first punch, grab or stab. Before it all goes down is where you need to concentrate your training. If you wait to be attacked it’s too late.
The SDTS concentrates on what happens BEFORE the attack based on the key factors of position and distance. Then you react using techniques and tactics designed to work in that “Combat Zone”. No matter how hard you try you can’t replicate SNS activation in the dojo and it sure as hell doesn’t happen in the ring so you must stick to techniques and tactics that qualify.
That means moves that are “simple” large movements that attack the major nerve, circulatory and respiratory areas of the body. forget the cute little parlor trick pressure points- they’re no good. Because if your enemy is in SNS Activation, high, drunk or insane, they won’t work.
There are six key variables that have an immediate impact of the level of SNS activation:
- The degree of malevolent, human intent behind the threat
Does that person want to injure or kill you? Are they capable?
- The perceived level of threat, ranging from risk of injury to the potential for death
Are they pointing a finger or a gun in your face?
- The time available to response
Are they in your face, a few steps away or sending you a threatening email?
- The level of confidence in personal skills and training
Are you 100% confident you’re prepared to protect yourself?
- The level of experience in dealing with the specific threat
Have you done with this before?
- The degree of physical fatigue that is combined with the anxiety
Do you have enough energy to protect yourself?
The obvious solution is replicating SNS activation in training but it’s impossible.
Bruce K. Siddle’s research involved monitoring the heart rate responses of law enforcement officers in interpersonal conflict simulations using paintball-type simulation weapons. This research has consistently recorded heart rate increases to well over 200 beats per minute, with some peak heart rates of up to 300 beats per minute, which is damn near off the charts!
These were simulations in which the combatants knew that their life was not in danger. In a true life-and-death situation where you face the ultimate universal human phobia of interpersonal aggression you will certainly experience a physiological reaction even greater than that of Siddle’s subjects.
Most self defense systems just ignore the facts.
The self defense you know assumes:
1. You will be able to “think” under pressure.
2. You can use finite and complicated blocks, traps, locks holds and strikes
3. You will be able to react in time with precision and accuracy.
At the Self Defense Company we embrace SNS activation.
We use inoperative conditioning based on position and distance and practice at 100% force on your target.
You start training in the “gray area” the place BEFORE the fight starts.
You understand what someone does before an attack and you know how to turn the tables on him and take the fight to him – all 100% legal, all 100% justified.
SNS activation makes you hyper-focused, strong and fearless. Fear is something that activates the SNS – it’s going to happen, so just accept it. This is why you need to train with in the confines of the SNS activation and base your training on methods that have been proven to work under real stress.
At the end of the day if any other system on the planet, Krav Maga, Akijujutsu, MMA, boxing, wrestling, Judo, BJJ, Systema, Sambo or anything worked I would attach my name to it. Nothing would stop me from calling this system Ross Krav Maga. In fact it might have made my life easier!
But there’s nothing in those systems that I didn’t learn in my Tae Kwon Do School in the 80’s. Yes, over 30 years in this business – I’ve seen it all.
I have literally put my life in the hands of this training and I’m here to tell you about it.
I don’t care what you do, as long as it works.
The research behind this post is credited to LtCol David Grossman and his book “On Combat”